What Do Foxes Eat?

These cunning mammals will take a bite out of just about anything, whether they’re roaming the countryside or trekking through a city.
Red foxes in particular are very adaptable carnivores.
Red foxes in particular are very adaptable carnivores. / Darrell Gulin, The Image Bank, Getty Images

Foxes in the genus Vulpes (also known as true foxes) might look cute and cuddly, but they’re cunning survivors that are highly adaptable to just about any situation. It’s why they’re often considered sly or crafty in many cultures. Some foxes are even adept at “playing dead” when startled or as a means of escape when caught by fur trappers. This masterful versatility is why you’ll find foxes in various regions and climates all over the world, even Arctic tundra.

But what makes foxes so resilient? Although their compact and speedy bodies are great for evading predators and their furry coats and bushy tails are wonderful for insulation and balance, a fox’s diet and general eating habits are a big reason why they can thrive alm anywhere.

The Eating Habits of Foxes

Closeup of a Red Fox Vixen in Algonquin Provincial Park
Rule of thumb? If they can carry off with it, a fox will probably be down to eat it. / mlorenzphotography, Moment Collection, Getty Images

What do foxes eat? The short answer is, practically anything. They’re omnivores that will consume grains and fruits like berries (a particular favorite), apples, and plums, as well as invertebrates (including worms, crickets, moths, and beetles). However, they’re skillful hunters and scavengers, which means they pursue and kill small prey, such as rodents, squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits, and other critters. Sometimes they even go after frogs and small snakes, and are known to swipe eggs (mainly from birds, but also occasionally reptiles). Foxes aren’t above devouring carrion, either.

These wily mammals have to eat between 1 and 2 pounds of food everyday [PDF] to maintain their body weight and keep up their energy up. Although there are dozens of different species of foxes—from Pampas foxes (Lycalopex gymnocercus), Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus), gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), and others—let’s take a look at what the most common species, red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), devour throughout the year.

What Do Red Foxes Eat?

Red foxes can be found on nearly every continent on planet Earth. Typically between 36 to 42 inches long, most adults weigh anywhere from 10 to 15 pounds and their habitats are as varied as their diet. They’re known to live in deserts, places with woods and farmlands, and even large cities and suburban communities, too.

True to form, they will munch on all kinds of things but have a preference for rodents and rabbits. However, they won’t pass up a free lunch, so whether it’s a bird (or its eggs), some sunflower seeds and patches of grass, or even domestic poultry (think The Fantastic Mr. Fox), most foods are fair game to them. Even porcupines can end up on the menu, if the fox is enterprising enough. Because red foxes have excellent senses of smell and hearing, they can hear prey from 100 feet away, and will even dig into the snow or dirt if they suspect something tasty might be lurking down below.

Do Diets for Rural Foxes Vary by Season?

A magnificent wild red fox (Vulpes vulpes) coming out from a bramble bush and is stalking a magpie bird.
Sometimes trouble has a way of finding ya—especially if you're a magpie hanging out near a fox den. / Sandra Standbridge, Moment Collection, Getty Images

Although it varies by season, a rural fox’s diet consists of mostly protein during the winter, as ice and snow get in the way of foraging and eating plants. As hunters, they usually prey on smaller animals, like rabbits, birds, and sometimes even deer fawns.

When the weather warms up during the spring season, foxes eat mice and rats as the ground begins to thaw. Foxes may even swim in shallow waters to hunt fish and crabs. During the summer months, foxes need to fatten up for the colder seasons, so they eat a lot of insects, such as beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, and caterpillars. They’re also known to hunt amphibians, like newts and small frogs.

In autumn, foxes subsist mostly on fruits and vegetables, such as berries, potatoes, apples, and acorns, as they’re ripe and seasonal. Additionally, they will continue to hunt small animals all year long.

What Do Urban Foxes Eat?

Urban fox standing on a wall.
Just a fox about town. / cuppyuppycake, Moment Collection, Getty Images

On the other hand, foxes roaming around cities have a slightly different diet. While they still hunt small prey, like rodents and pigeons (which are abundant in areas like New York City), they generally forage for food waste for sustenance.

With so many people throwing away food from their homes and restaurants, urban foxes are presented with an unlimited buffet. They just have to rummage through rows of trash cans and dumpsters for daily feasts of half-eaten apples, corn on the cob, burgers and fries, and other discarded food scraps. They may even dig holes in lawns or patches of grass when they’re hunting for earthworms. Plus, urban foxes have become so brazen about swiping food from homes that they’re known to eat pet food and snacks left out for delivery workers.

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